How To Care For Elderlies Even When You Can’t See Them
I remember looking at my parents one fine day, and something unsettling dawned on me. Suddenly, I could see that they have gotten older. Throughout my whole life, until my early twenties, it was never apparent because I see them every day. If they have changed in any way, it was probably a new haircut, or my dad was trying to leave a neat moustache.
However, on that day, I was afraid of them getting older. Today, the situation seems direr as most of us can’t even meet our parents or grandparents due to the closure of domestic and international borders. Some of us may not have seen our elderly’s for the past one and a half years.
Recently, I spoke to Dr. Cecilia Chan, the vice-president for the Association for Residential Aged Care Operators of Malaysia (AGECOPE). I asked her about how these elderly folks are right now since most of them are stuck at home. What’s worst, their children or grandchildren are far from them. Plus, most of their children and grandchildren would think twice or thrice before visiting them in fear that they might bring the Covid-19 virus over to them.
She said depression is setting in among the elderly, and some have lost hope. Since their nest emptied, they entertained themselves by heading out, meeting like-minded friends, and always looking forward to family visits – but now, the joy of doing those activities is gone.
She shared four steps to still keep them company, care for them, and show them our love from afar – and hopefully, once the vaccinations and infection rates go down, there will be a sweet reunion with them.
1. Call them/Video call
The obvious would be to call or video call them. Ask yourself, when was the last time you gave your grandparents, parents, or even elderly aunts and uncles a call.
Now, you may be thinking, ‘Aiya, they cannot handle technology. By the time they know which button to click, an hour has passed!’ Okay, we accept that exaggeration.
However, no one is too old to learn. If we are patient and guide them through their impatience (it is usually an armour to hide behind their embarrassment of not knowing how to operate technology), there will be a breakthrough. Your calls will make their day and make them feel like they are still relevant in your life. They may not tell you this, but I am pretty sure it is the highlight of their day.
2. Keep each other updated and watch for signs of deterioration (if there are)
Recent research on seniors coping with the pandemic showed that social isolation and loneliness can affect their health. Because they are forced to sever their connection with the community so abruptly, it can lead to poor physical and mental health status.
Here’s a little assignment for you. When you interact with your seniors frequently, you will get to know their on-call or online mannerisms and gauge their emotional state of the day. Encourage them to tell you about their day, though it may not be as interesting as yours. When you do this regularly, you can pinpoint signs of deterioration, if there are any.
Notice if they are less chatty than usual, experience memory loss, present a dull countenance, or something as trivial as saying they don’t enjoy their hobbies anymore – pick on those cues. Depending on the severity, you could plan to do online activities with them. For example, having dinner dates, doing a little dance jig, or even online playing games (try Sudoku or chess) as depression can reduce when their bodies and minds are active.
Seek professional help if you suspect they may have lost their will to live – serious stuff, I know, but better be safe than sorry.
3. Shower them with gifts
My younger sister, who lives abroad, will often go on Malaysian e-commerce sites to buy stuff for my parents – and it is what I consider the most random items, like 30 rolls of toilet paper, washing detergent, shampoo and once, a ceiling fan!
At first, I was like, why are you buying them crazily random items? But then I found out that there is a brand of toilet paper that my dad likes that he wouldn’t bring himself to buy because it was expensive. These tiny gestures like buying higher quality stuff for our seniors to make them happy and appreciated.
They don’t need to be gifted items during special occasions, household items, or even their favourite food will remind them that they are loved. It is also a talking topic if you ever find yourself out of things to talk about.
4. Know the community and get them to keep a lookout for them
No man is an island, and a community is essential. That is why forced social isolation is harming the mental health of many. Now, getting acquainted with the people around your loved ones at home may be difficult, but start by asking your seniors for contact numbers of their neighbours or community leaders.
You may have a friend who is residing in your hometown that you may contact to, once in a while, pass the house or drop by to ensure they are well taken care of. This is especially crucial if you have old relatives that are prone to falls or may have comorbidities.
As a journalist, I have written news pieces of seniors found dead at home after they had a bad fall or experienced a heart attack – and nobody knew! I never ever want such incidents to happen because it is too heart-wrenching. So guys, please, have someone you know and trust to just knock-knock on their door occasionally, just to ensure they are doing fine.
Some of you might be gearing up to go back to your home town, excited to give your loved ones a super-duper snuggly hug, but do remember to do a Covid-19 test ahead of time. Meanwhile, remember to give your seniors a ring-a-ling, and make them part of your list of priorities even when you are super busy. Stay safe, and stay lovin’.
It is hard to maintain relationships during the time of COVID-19, check out this article on Simple Ways To Bond And Improve Your Relationship With Your Parents.